Let’s take you back to Tokyo Harajuku in the peri-pandemic world.
The newly opened IKEA in Harajuku’s recently renovated building called “WITH HARAJUKU” caught a lot of Tokyoites and IKEA lovers’ attention.
It’s a decent 2-level store on the second floor, where you can find pretty much what you need from IKEA but please be warned, there’s not much space for social distancing. There were a lot of people and it took a while to get a seat at the second-floor cafe. I recommend visiting during the weekday because during the weekend there was a long line from the ground floor up to the second floor. The store had to give everyone a numbered ticket to control the number of people inside the store. A bit of a shock because I thought people were still scared of the virus.
Another store you might find interesting is EATALY. They recently opened their third store in Japan on the 3rd floor of the same building. You can buy all sorts of Italian ingredients and products.
You can enjoy their gelato at their panoramic terrace facing the Harajuku Station or reserve a table for a nice lunch or dinner date at their restaurant. They have English speaking staff, so you won’t have any problem if you don’t speak Japanese.
Right across Eataly is a cafe Aux Bacchanales, a french restaurant with branches all over Tokyo. The first time we had a meal in this restaurant was at their New Hotel Otani location. I remember enjoying their lunch set with coffee. This Harajuku branch is a bit smaller but has a variety of seats. They have dining booths, solo dining tables, a small dining room for big groups, and a terrace facing the new Harajuku station.
The way they pay their bills here is the Japanese style, you’ll be given a numbered key and you’ll present it at the cash register after your meal and before leaving the restaurant. Their staff can understand a bit of English but their menu is in Japanese and French. I’m sure if you ask for an English menu they would have it since the majority of restaurants in Harajuku have one.
Apparently in Tokyo, it wouldn’t be a retail building without Uniqlo. Despite the pandemic, Uniqlo opened their new store in the same building on the 1st floor and basement. The 1st floor features collaboration t-shirts with various artists and brands. They currently have a collaboration with Billie Eillish and displays her 3m statue by the entrance, crafted by Takashi Murakami.
Another new feature of the store is the StyleHint Harajuku located at B1. It has an entire wall covered with 240 touchscreen displays where customers can browse the latest outfit stylings by users.
During our visit last week, With Harajuku was still at its soft opening where some stores were not yet open, despite that a lot of people visited this place and kept the building staff busy due to the pandemic control measures they had to implement during the weekend. Unlike our last visit on a weekday, Ikea was the only shop crowded with shoppers.
WITH Harajuku complex also offers hangout spaces at the back of the building facing Takeshita Dori and with a view of Yoyogi’s NTT Docomo Building. If you exit the building at the back, you’ll also find “The Alley” another popular bubble tea shop which recently opened last June 23rd.
With the influx of residents visiting this area you might think things are back to normal. However, the signs of a global pandemic were apparent throughout the building. Hand sanitizers and body temperature scanners were scattered around the building, social distancing marks were visible on every floor, and every floor was manned by security staff to enforce covid19 control measures.
Overall, I’m grateful that Tokyo’s coming around and getting busy again but with effort to fight the spread of infections.
That’s it for today’s blog post. You can scroll some more pictures below to take a look around Harajuku during the pandemic.